Fast-paced documentary on life and death of Formula One racing driver
This fast-paced documentary about the life and death of the legendary Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna plays more like a dramatic biopic than a feature-length doc. Taking his lead from and building upon dramatic documentaries such as Kevin Macdonald’s One Day in September and, more recently, James Marsh’s Man on Wire, director Asif Kapadia (who previously made the striking quasi-fantasies The Warrior and Far North) has composed his film entirely of archive footage and eschews the use of to-camera interviews so that there is a sense not of watching a documented past but of being present in the past with history unspooling before our eyes.
The film tells the story of the Brazilian driver, from his entry into F1 in the mid-1980s through his three world championship wins to his untimely death on the track ten years later, focusing on both Senna’s on track rivalry with French world champ Alain Prost and his off track opposition to the politics of multi-million dollar sport that, arguably, lead to his demise. It includes some seriously thrilling driver’s-point-of-view footage (that’s all the more impressive than anything, say, Tony Scott dreamed up for Days of Thunder because it’s real) and it portrays the man who became the sport’s first global superstar as at once a nice guy and a nut case and man with a steely edge, which makes for a more rounded characterisation that we usually get from Hollywood dramas. Vroom!